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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Red Imported Fire Ants: Impact on Biodiversity and Integrated Management Techniques

Authors
item Wojcik, Daniel
item Allen, Craig - CLEMSON UNIVERSITY
item Brenner, Richard
item Focks, Dana
item Forys, Elizabeth - ECKERD COLLEGE
item Lutz, R. - UNIV. OF WISCONSIN-MAD.
item Oi, David
item Porter, Sanford
item Vander Meer, Robert
item Williams, David

Submitted to: American Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 8, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, was inadvertently introduced into the U.S. in the 1930's, and is an invasive species that has gradually spread to over 300 million acres in 12 southern states. In addition to the painful stings of fire ants, they have a profound impact on ecology, specifically the biodiversity of native animals. Scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, FL, an their cooperators review past and current research on the impact of fire ants in environmentally-sensitive areas, especially habitats of endangered vertebrates and invertebrates. This paper also describes a proposed national fire ant strategy with goals to reduce pesticide use in these sensitive areas by developing, testing, and implementing biologically-based control measures. These include use of parasitic flies, disease organisms of fire ants, and parasitic ants. Limited field tests of candidate biological control agents have begun in 8 states in cooperation with state universities. In addition, cooperative efforts with NASA/NOAA are designed to determine appropriate areas for further releases in the U.S. and further searches for candidate biocontrol agents in South America. Finally, reduced-risk strategies using precision targeting with existing technologies are described for high risk urban areas as part of a sustainable integrated management strategy.

Technical Abstract: The impacts of red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, on endangered species and wildlife are reviewed. Recent research and research in progress, indicates that documented and suspected impacts of fire ants on endangered vertebrates and invertebrates may be some of the most important damage caused by imported fire ants in the U.S. Limited field tests of candidate biological control agents in selected sites in 8 states, were initiated in spring/summer 1998. Goals are to (1) determine survivorship of candidate biological control agents, (2) develop standardized monitoring techniques to measure impact of candidate agents on fire ant populations, and (3) develop predictive models using NASA/NOAA data to determine appropriate areas for further releases in the U.S. and additional searches for biocontrol agents in South America. Current bottlenecks that limit progress for release in other imported fire ant infested areas include (1) development of mass-propagation techniques for biocontrol agents, (2) facilities for mass-propagating organisms, and (3) allocation of resources within each state to support critical cooperative efforts in field sites. Basic research areas include classical biological control, biopesticides, social disrupters, biodiversity enhancement / restoration, preservation / reestablishment of native ants, cold-hardiness, and sustainable integrated management strategies.

Last Modified: 11/27/2014
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